As we all know, the NFL is becoming a passing league. The "premium positions" all revolve around protecting or getting to the quarterback. It's why left tackles, pass rushers, cornerbacks, and (obviously) the quarterback himself are taken so early on draft day.
If you look at a team's best players at those four positions, you can get an interesting, though meaningless, perspective of the team's composition.
That's exactly what CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco has done, compiling rankings of every team's best player at these four positions, and compiling them together for his four pronged rankings.
The Bengals placed 16th in the league, tied with the Detroit Lions. The Pittsburgh Steelers placed 12th, while the Baltimore Ravens dropped to 19th, and the Cleveland Browns remained entrenched at the bottom at 26th.
The four players representing the Bengals were quarterback Andy Dalton, left tackle Andrew Whitworth, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, and cornerback Leon Hall.
Just looking at those names, you would think that the Bengals would rank in the top ten at every spot expect quarterback. However, Prisco didn't exactly give Dunlap or Hall a lot of love in these rankings.
Andy Dalton was ranked 19th. Ahead of a few veterans like Mark Sanchez, Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Matt Cassel. But, Dalton did not surpass Josh Freeman, Sam Bradford, and Carson Palmer, who was only one spot ahead of Dalton at No. 18.
Andrew Whitworth led the way for the Bengals at 6th. The Browns' Joe Thomas and Dolphins' Jake Long were both placed ahead of Whit, along with the Panthers' Jordan Gross and two surprises- the Cowboy's sophomore Tyron Smith and the Texans' Duane Brown, who took the number one overall spot.
Dunlap and Hall slid all the way down to No. 21 and No. 18, respectively. A lot of questionable names surround both these two, that I won't even bother listing. Though Dunlap was very successful at times in 2011, it appears he is still in the "prove-it" stage, where experts are looking for a little more versatility and experience before they are ready to crown Dunlap as one of the best in the league. If Dunlap can stay off the injury report in 2012, I think Dunlap will finally earn the respect he deserves. Leon Hall found himself on the wrong side of more than a few plays in 2011, and is still rehabbing from an achilles injury that he suffered in November of last year. Personally, I feel that Hall got unlucky on many plays in 2011, but it remains to be seen how he recovers from this major injury.
In his 2011 piece, the Bengals were 11th overall. Prisco had Carson Palmer 14th, Whitworth 7th, Dunlap 25th, and Hall 7th.